Mission Of Honor – Snippet 22

Mission Of Honor – Snippet 22

* * *

Captain Ansten FitzGerald tipped back in his chair as Commander Amal Nagchaudhuri stepped into the briefing room with an electronic tablet tucked under his arm.

“Have a seat,” the captain invited, pointing at a chair across the table from his own, and Nagchaudhuri settled into it with a grateful sigh. FitzGerald smiled and shook his own head.

“Are you anywhere near a point where you can actually sit down for a couple of hours with a beer?” he asked, and Nagchaudhuri chuckled sourly.

It had never occurred to the tall, almost albino-pale commander that he might find himself the executive officer of one of the Royal Manticoran Navy’s most powerful heavy cruisers. He was a communications specialist, and posts like that usually went to officers who’d come up through the tactical track, although that tradition had been rather eroded over the past couple of decades by the Navy’s insatiable appetite for experienced personnel. On the other hand, very few XOs had inherited their positions under circumstances quite like his, which had quite a bit to do with his current weariness.

“By my calculations, it won’t be more than another T-year before I can take a break long enough for that, Sir,” he replied. “Ginger was one hell of an engineer, but we’re still finding things that managed to get broken somehow.” He shrugged. “Most of what we’re finding now is little crap, of course. None of it’s remotely vital. I imagine that’s one reason Ginger hadn’t already found it and dealt with it before they transferred her out. But I’m still annotating her survey for the yard dogs. And the fact that BuPers is pilfering so enthusiastically isn’t helping one damned bit.”

FitzGerald nodded in understanding and sympathy. He’d held Nagchaudhuri’s position until Hexapuma’s return from the Talbott Quadrant. He was intimately familiar with the problems the commander was experiencing and discovering, and the XO’s frustration came as no surprise — not least because they’d all anticipated getting the ship into the yard dogs’ hands so quickly.

FitzGerald’s eyes darkened at that thought. Of course they’d expected that! After all, none of them were psychic, so none of them had realized the Battle of Manticore was going to come roaring out of nowhere only five days after their return. Hexapuma’s damages had kept her on the sidelines, a helpless observer, and as incredibly frustrating as that had been at the time, it was probably also the only reason Fitzgerald, Nagchaudhuri, and the cruiser’s entire complement were still alive. That cataclysmic encounter had wreaked havoc on a scale no one had ever truly envisioned. It had also twisted the Navy’s neat, methodical schedules into pretzels . . . and the horrendous personnel losses had quite a bit to do with how Nagchaudhuri had ended up confirmed as Hexapuma’s executive officer, too.

“Well,” he said, shaking off the somberness memories of the battle always produced, “I’ve got some good news for once. Rear Admiral Truman says she’s finally got a space for us in R&R.”

“She does?” Nagchaudhuri straightened, expression brightening. Rear Admiral Margaret Truman, a first cousin of the rather more famous Admiral Alice Truman, was the commanding officer of Her Majesty’s Space Station Hephaestus, and HMSS Hephaestus happened to be home to the Repair and Refit command to which Hexapuma’s repair had been assigned.

“She does indeed. Captain Fonzarelli will have docking instructions for us by tomorrow morning, and the tugs will be ready for us at oh-nine-hundred.”

“That’s going to piss Aikawa off,” Nagchaudhuri observed with a grin, and FitzGerald laughed.

“I imagine he’ll get over it eventually. Besides, he was due for a little leave.”

Ensign Aikawa Kagiyama had been one of Hexapuma’s midshipmen on her previous deployment. In fact, he was the only one still aboard her. Or, rather, assigned to her, since he wasn’t onboard at the moment.

“I guess we can always ask Hephaestus to delay our repairs a little longer. Long enough for him to get back from Weyland for the big moment, I mean,” Nagchaudhuri suggested.

“The hell we can!” Fitzgerald snorted. “Not that I don’t appreciate the way he looked after me after Monica, or anything. I’m sure he’ll be disappointed, but if we delay this any longer just so he can be here for it, his loyal crewmates would probably stuff him out an open air lock!”

“Yeah, but he’s fairly popular. They might let them have a helmet, first,” Nagchaudhuri replied with an even broader grin.

“And they might not, too.” Fitzgerald shook his head. “No, we’ll just let this be his little surprise when he gets back.”

“I hope he’s enjoying himself,” Nagchaudhuri said more seriously. “He’s a good kid. He works hard, and he really came through at Monica.”

“They were all good kids,” FitzGerald agreed. “And I’ll admit, I worry about him a little. It’s not natural for the XO to have to order an ensign to take leave. Especially not someone with his record from the Island!”

“He has been well behaved since we got back from Monica,” Nagchaudhuri acknowledged. “You don’t think he’s sick, do you?”

“No, I think it’s just losing all his accomplices.” Fitzgerald shrugged. “With Helen off as the Skipper’s new flag lieutenant, and with Paulo assigned to Weyland with Ginger, he’s sort of at loose ends when it comes to getting into trouble. For which we can all be grateful.”

“That depends. Are we going to get a fresh complement of snotties for him to provide with a suitably horrible example?”

“I doubt it.” Fitzgerald shrugged again. “Given the fact that we’re going to be sitting in a repair dock for the next several months, I imagine they’ll be looking for something a bit more active for snotty cruises. Besides, even if we get a fresh batch, he’s an ensign now. I think he’d actually feel constrained to set them a good example.”

“Somehow I find it difficult to wrap my mind around the concept of Aikawa being a good example for anyone — intentionally, I mean. At least without having Helen around to threaten him if he doesn’t!”

“Oh, come now!” Fitzgerald waved a chiding finger at the XO. “You know perfectly well that Helen never threatened him. Well, not too often, anyway.”

“Only because she didn’t have to make it explicit,” Nagchaudhuri countered. “One raised eyebrow, and he knew what was coming.”

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19 Responses to Mission Of Honor – Snippet 22

  1. Rod says:

    A salute to the ‘Nasty Kitty’ hmm?

  2. 4th Dimension says:

    With the end of this chapter, we are now only two chapters away, probably two weeks, from actual new content not featured on webscription.
    Let’s hope Kitty gets out of repair dock in time.

  3. robert says:

    @2 4D, not a chance. It is January and Hexapuma has a lot of damage and Hephaestus is going to get creamed.

    We don’t know who survives and who is killed in OB but the total planetary and space-based losses will likely be staggering. With 8th Fleet gone, the defenses of the Manticore system are comparatively woeful. With the extensive preparations that the MA have made, and the stealth of the attacking craft, the surprise should be total and chaotic at first. I doubt that any ship in R&R or under construction will survive and Hephaestus and the other stations will either be destroyed or damaged so much that they will not be very useful for a loooong time.

    It seems very cruel for some of these characters who we have enjoyed “being with” and who have survived all these years of war to be killed in one more horrible attack, as if the Battle of Manticore wasn’t bad enough.

  4. rick says:

    Hmm… Lets not forget the first rule of combat Or WD..”No plan survives contact with the enemy.”

  5. justdave says:

    @3 hopefully Aikawa will still be on leave when OB hits Hephaestus

  6. John Roth says:

    @4 Robert

    Actually, the defenses of the Manticore system are quite good. The system defense version of Apollo is up and operational, which is why 8th fleet could leave. To draw a parallel, they’re somewhat in the position of the French after WW I, with the Maginot line. They’re quite ready for the attack they expect.

    The MA, on the other hand, is in the position celebrated in numerous Monty Python skits: Nobody expects the Spamish Inquisition. Unfortunately for Manticore, they’re coming with something a bit more deadly than the Comfy Chair, and they’re not lead by Cardinal Feng.

  7. robert says:

    @6 John, good analogy. While Manticore is not a house occupied by a frumpy (in-drag) British housewife totally nonplussed by the antics that abound, it might as well be, given what is coming.

  8. Thirdbase says:

    The one thing that I have been wondering about is, exactly what is the nature of the attack on the stations, and why have the MA ships been dinking around for months before launching their attack.

    The entire OB attack seems overly convoluted to me. What they’ve done is the equivalent to Japan having snuck their minisubs into Pearl harbor in October of 41.

    Wouldn’t it have been easier to just have translated the assault fleet somewhere beyond detection range, accelerate up to, say .25C and release pre-programmed missiles to coast in. It’s not like the stations are going to dodge, or be somewhere else. I doubt even the Manties could move a structure that measures in the 10s of kilometers in length. An attack from Pluto’s orbital distance would take about 3 weeks at that speed.

  9. 4th Dimension says:

    Because in order to be able to hit anything they’ll need to be inside Manty detection array, and it they are, Manties WILL detect launch of the missiles AND be ready to shoot them down. Additionally the will shift their stations, deploy jamers and all kinds of other stuff. While it’s not easy it’s certainly possible to move stations from orbit to orbit.
    What Mesans are doing is placing those pods way inside hyper limit, so missiles can go powered ALL the way to their targets. They also had to get close to get a detail scan of orbits of the stations to better program their missiles to AVOID anything that might look like a deliberate Erdany Edict violation. Also note that space is FREAKISHLY huge, and to hit a space station (object couple of KM in size) from light hour away by sending a missile completely on ballistic would require an insane amount of precision. You would probably need to account even for solar wind.

  10. Daryl says:

    OB will be good for our perspective. With attack and counter measure so closely aligned in normal fleet actions, we tend to forget about the awesome power that these combatants have. Anything from a Battle Cruiser up could probably sterilise today’s Earth. A small technological window, such as Mesa currently has, will enable immense destruction, however as happened at Pearl Harbour you really shouldn’t provoke a sleeping giant. While Yamamoto was the architect of Pearl Harbour he knew all along that it would be a tactical victory but a strategic defeat and argued against it even as he planned it.

  11. robert says:

    @10 And he was killed in that war. I think most of the Japanese war party had no real feel for the immensity of the US economy and its industrial might vs. Japan’s at that time. Yamamoto had been outside the country and had been to the US (I believe) and understood what the war advocates were getting into. In the case of the MA, I think there is a better understanding of the SEM’s capabilities and power, and that is why they are “hiding” their attack in hopes of diverting blame from themselves while at the same time destroying much of Manticore’s war industry. Oyster Bay may sound like Pearl Harbor, but I believe that, except for Weber’s (Detweiler’s?) nomenclature and the surprise nature of the attack, it is quite different.

    What the MA does not know is that Honor is en route to Haven, and we can speculate a whole bunch about what will happen and what the effects on the MA and the SL will be if peace between those space empires is achieved.

  12. John Roth says:

    @11 Robert

    Remember that Japan was working with Germany, and was part of a larger plan to get the U.S. embroiled in a two front war, with Japan free to engage the Pacific Theater without distractions from anyone else. So the plan wasn’t quite as insane as it looks in retrospect — a lot of the war party expected Germany to bleed the U.S. sufficiently to overcome the problem after they’d conquered England.

    And remember that the U.S. had to totally mobilize. If it could go to the war effort, it did. Civilian consumption dropped like a rock. Rosie the Riveter wasn’t a joke. What they forgot was Sun Tzu’s comments about Death Ground.

  13. robert says:

    @12 John. And so both nations underestimated our ability to fight the war in which they had decided to engage us. I have long maintained that Al Queda picked the right time and place to attack us on our soil. The time element was that we had a very distractable government at that time which was more interested in Iraq than Al Queda or anything else, and the place was New York City. Had they done to Des Moines what they did to NY we’d have put a million men into Afghanistan by October of that year. And worse, they wanted to do it on the cheap. OK, I exaggerate a bit, but you understand my meaning.

  14. Thirdbase says:

    @#9 4D

    Hitting or at least getting into attack range, shouldn’t be to hard. In 1977 the US launched the 2 Voyager missions, Voyager 2 over the next 12 years made flybys of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. I would hope that in 2000 years something similar could be done.

    As to the attack plan, first the ships would accelerate up to .25C and then release, as opposed to launch, the missiles which would then coast on a purely ballistic course. At some point a passive targeting system would make sure that the various missiles are at least in the general vicinity of the target planet, and make any course corrections with simple chemical thrusters. Closer in a better, but still passive, targeting system would aim the missiles at the stations. At 15 to 30 seconds from the target, active targeting systems and missile drive system could kick in for the final attack run.

    Note that other than luck detecting the missiles while inbound, they wouldn’t have active drives to be detected. There are times in many of the books where ships “hid” by using a lower powered wedge and stealth systems.

    As for an Eridani Edict violation, the MA doesn’t really care about it.

  15. 4th Dimension says:

    The main problem is that even at 0,25 of C the missile would take approx 15 hours to reach a target from Pluto’s orbit. That’s 15 hours of direct exposure of electronics to the Solar wind at 0,25C. 15 hours of down the throat exposure. I don’t know what they make electronics in that age, but I doubt they could cope with that amount of charged particles. And also I’m quite sure that they say in books that most of the missiles on ballistic trajectories have most of their electronics fried by the time they reach target. So these missiles would be almost blind and nearly dead, so you can forget about maneuvering for final attack.
    On top of that, you can orient a missile at that speed with reaction thrusters, but you must have a wedge to correct the course at that speed.
    Also at 600G a ship would take approx 3+ hours to reach 0,25C, and that’s 3 hours that gives Mantys time to react. On the other hand Spider Drive ships might be able to accelerate to such speeds undetected, or they might use that Havenite trick from book 3 and accelerate a lightmonth away, tough that ship would still have been detected once inside Manty array (as stated in the chapter). And there is the problem of slowing down to translate back into hyperspace. And the problem of decelerating without harming missiles with your wedge. Hmm, I’m guite shure I knew couple of others.

    And also you need something to guide missiles on their final run. Those platforms you MUST place inside the system. And you needed to scout it, before everything to make final adjustments to the plan.

    No Mesans do not care about civilians. BUT they care that they are not branded as violators of EE. They want space debree and maybe couple of unlucky misses to do the dirty work, so they can claim they didn’t violate EE.

  16. Thirdbase says:


    Check out Ch. 39 of AoV for a similar style attack, although done with LACs.

    Check out Honors discussion of the MDM with White Haven, Ch. 2 of IEH, where she specifically describes using the missiles with a ballistic segment followed by a preprogrammed attack with the final drive. The velocities discussed range from .3 to .54C.

    At the end of HotQ White Haven’s missiles travel for 17 minutes to attack the Saladin, at .3C. (Although it is a good thing that DW is an historian, not a mathematician.) Some of these missiles hit their target despite having no drive at the end.

    Scouting the Manticore system is easy, just send in civilian ships to look around.

    Shielding the electronics is a simple matter of engineering, the US has had objects in space for decades that are still operational and sending back data. So while the sensors will probably have to shielded during large portions of the ballistic trip, they could be protected.

    At the battle of Hades, it is stated that the maximum reaction drive acceleration for the ships was 150g.

    Considering that the MA is planning on very bad things happening to the Solarian League, I am unsure why in a sneak attack, that I don’t believe they plan on acknowledging, they are worried about violating it.

  17. 4th Dimension says:

    Those LACs were able to penetrate due to enemy not knowing about Manticorians having such a capability. Even with silent running, sensors that cover capital planets would have detected them long before even hyper limit.
    Mesans could have done a similar attack maybe with their Spider drive, but I get the idea they are lacking numbers necessary to carry and launch a attack big enough to annihilate most of the defenses. That’s why they are using all ships they have to lay pods. But even with pods it seems they are going only for soft targets. A capital system the size of Manticore has too many targets to hit in one go. It seems.

    But they are nowhere talking about missiles going on ballistics for hours. And there is always problem of what will guide them on the FINAL attack.
    Those missiles that were attacking Saladin were attacking a half blind ship with a green crew. Also missiles were attacking from range of 5 light minutes or so. We are talking hours.

    There is a BIG difference in shielding something that is moving at maybe 1/1000 of C (if even that) and something at .25C. But even with sensors, you would still need something to do their thinking for them. Something to guide them, and give them their targets.

    Reaction drive uses fusion drive plasma to “push”. It probably has plenty for orientation. But I doubt there is enough mass in a missile enough for attaining 150G, for any significant amount of time.

    Mesa is trying to avoid Manticore becoming a victim. Something that Beowulf and their friends in SOL can use as a rallying call. EE is maybe the only thing about which entire SOL is in agreement. They don’t want to give SOL public and Manties/Beowulfians something around which to rally.

  18. John Roth says:

    @16 Thirdbase
    @17 4th Dimension

    The section at the end of Chapter 3, beginning with “Commodore Karol Ostby”, lays out in detail what they’re planning on doing for the actual attack. There’s no need to speculate.

  19. 4th Dimension says:

    Oh we know what they are planing. They plan to seed the Manticore system with missile pods and guidance platforms, and then get out. Then at the set time, guidance platforms will feed the pods target information and fire them. Manites won’t know what hit them. Suddenly with no warning they’ll get thousands of missiles going for their infrastructure. At top they might get minute or two to get in gear, if even that.
    What we are discussing is, WHY is Mesa going with such an overcomplicated plan (sneak in, play mouse and cat with MN, seed specially prepared platforms etc). Why don’t they simply pop in light-hours away. Get up to a decent speed (with Spider drive they could do that with extreme stealth) and simply spam thousands of missiles at 0,99999 of C. And get out.
    By the time missiles enter Manty system they will be going close to light speed, and have almost no emissions. Manty’s will se missiles on radar maybe nanoseconds before they hit. BUT that plan would give Manticorians time to prepare. And most of those missiles WILL probably hit the planets.

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